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My preceding post summarised the influence that Huguenots had on English society and culture.

Today’s looks at a generational example of how the descendants of Huguenots continued the same tradition. Sir Samuel Romilly was one such example.

Although children and grandchildren of Huguenots absorbed the value of education and hard work, some found that their faith began to wane. This is probably not surprising, given that, by this time, the Age of Enlightenment was in full flow and secularism became more popular.

In his article ‘England’s “First Refugees”‘, historian Dr Robin Gwynn cites the story of Samuel Romilly for whom the eponymous street in London’s Soho is named. Romilly was born in nearby Frith Street.

Before we come to Gwynn’s account of Romilly’s thoughts about his heritage, Wikipedia describes his origins:

Romilly was … the second son of Peter Romilly, a watchmaker and jeweller. His grandfather had emigrated from Montpellier after the revocation of the edict of Nantes, and had married Margaret Garnault, a Huguenot refugee like himself, but of a far wealthier family. Samuel served for a time in his father’s shop; he was well-educated, becoming a good classical scholar and particularly conversant with French literature. A legacy of £2000 from one of his mother’s relations led to his being articled to a solicitor and clerk in chancery with the idea of qualifying himself to purchase the office of one of the six clerks in chancery.

Romilly went on to have a radical influence on English law:

In 1808, he managed to repeal the Elizabethan statute which made it a capital offence to steal from the person … in 1812 he had repealed a statute of Elizabeth I making it a capital offence for a soldier or a mariner to beg without a pass from a magistrate or his commanding officer. In 1813 he failed to pass a law which would have abolished corruption of blood [prohibiting inheritance from a criminal] for all crimes, but in the following year he tried again and succeeded (except for treason and murder). Also in 1814 he succeeded in abolishing hanging, drawing and quartering.

In addition to the learned circles in which he mixed locally, Romilly also had many influential friends in France with whom he exchanged ideas. These helped to affect his view of the law. His reputation was such that he became highly popular in political circles and was knighted. He served as Solicitor General and as a Whig MP for three different constituencies on the Sussex coast.

He also helped William Wilberforce and other fellow MPs to abolish slavery in 1807:

The trade was abolished by a resounding 283 to 16. According to Thomas Clarkson, it was the largest majority recorded on any issue where the House divided. Romilly felt it to be “the most glorious event, and the happiest for mankind, that has ever taken place since human affairs have been recorded.”

Now to Gwynn’s information about Romilly and his ancestors:

His great-grandfather, a landowner at Montpellier, had remained in the south of France after the Revocation, but continued to worship in Protestant ways within the security of his own home, and brought up his children as Protestants. It was Samuel’s grandfather, Etienne, who became a refugee in 1701, at the age of seventeen. He went to Geneva for the specific purpose of receiving Communion, and there decided not to return home but to go instead to London. Only then did he inform his family of his decision, but his father accepted the situation and sent money to him from France which helped him establish himself as a wax-bleacher in Hoxton, It is typical of first-generation refugees to marry others of their own kind, and Etienne married Judith de Monsallier, the daughter of another Huguenot immigrant.

Samuel Romilly’s father, Peter, was apprenticed to a Frenchman in the City, a jeweller named Lafosse. In due course Peter[,] too[,] married the daughter of a refugee, Margaret Gamault, so Samuel was brought up in surroundings which retained strong Huguenot influences.

Samuel Romilly later recalled attending church twice on Sundays. His father Peter alternated these visits between the Anglican parish church and the French church of which he was a member. Peter was also intent on practising charity, which Samuel noted held more importance for his father than religious practice.

Samuel had poor impressions of the French church, parts of which sound as if they could have been written yesterday:

Most of the descendants of the refugees were born and bred in England, and desired nothing less than to preserve the memory of their origin; and their chapels were therefore ill-attended. A large uncouth room, the avenues to which were narrow courts and dirty alleys, and which, when you entered it, presented to the view only irregular unpainted pews and dusty plastered walls; a congregation consisting principally of some strange-looking old women scattered here and there, one or two in a pew, and a clergyman reading the service and preaching in a monotonous tone of voice, and in a language not familiar to me, was not likely either to impress my mind with much religious awe, or to attract my attention to the doctrines which were delivered.

His impressions of attending French school were no better.

With regard to organised religion, he seems to have been ambivalent. On the one hand, he continued to attend the aforementioned French church as an adult and was delighted when John Roget became pastor there. He and Roget became close friends, to the extent that Samuel’s sister Catherine married the minister.

However, John appears to have died at a young age. His and Catherine’s son, Peter Mark Roget (1779 – 1869), remained close to his uncle Samuel. Peter Roget, incidentally, was a physician, then after retirement, compiled the first Roget’s Thesaurus. Such detailed list-making helped him to combat depression. His son John Lewis Roget and grandson Samuel Romilly Roget expanded his work. You can find out more about Peter Mark Roget here; he also invented the slide rule. He was also the secretary for the Royal Society for 21 years and invented a pocket chessboard.

With the loss of his clergyman brother-in-law John, it is possible that Samuel Romilly drifted further away from the faith. John might have had some part to play as well. It was he who introduced Samuel to Rousseau’s work. That said, it appears that Samuel continued to attend church, at least occasionally. As an MP, he recorded in his diary (Memoirs of the Life of Sir Samuel Romilly, Volume 2, p. 301):

Oct. 25. After Church, and after I had sat in court, I went to Bishop Auckland, and passed the rest of the day there. 

Although he admired the concept of the French Revolution, he was highly critical of its atheistic nature. Spartacus Educational explains:

In 1790 he published a pamphlet Thoughts on the probable influence of the French Revolution on Great Britain. Rose Melikan, has argued: ” … His own indoctrination in Anglicanism and French Calvinism had not inspired a very profound dedication to organized religion. He felt that the French anti-clericalism, however, was both unreasonable and likely to presage further persecution.” Romilly later admitted that the French Revolution produced “among the higher orders… a horror of every kind of innovation”.

Romilly continued his father’s charitable efforts by serving as a director of the French Protestant Hospital in London.

It is unfortunate that, upon hearing of the death of his beloved wife on the Isle of Wight, he secluded himself in a room in his house in Russell Square, London, and slit his throat. His aforementioned nephew Peter Roget — still traumatised by his father’s and wife’s premature deaths — attended to his uncle in his final moments on October 29, 1818. Although Wikipedia states Romilly is buried in a family vault in Radnorshire, Wales, Find A Grave’s biography by Iain MacFarliane states that he is buried in his wife Anne’s hometown of Knill, Herefordshire, in St Michael’s and All Angels churchyard.

There are more examples of Huguenots and their descendants who similarly changed society and culture in dramatic ways. I’ll take a closer look at their stories in August 2015, God willing.

For now, here is Dr Gwynn’s summary of this particular generation in England:

by and large it was the members of his – the third – generation of refugees who were the last to show any profound awareness of the Huguenot character of their families. In 1787 those Protestants who remained in France finally won toleration, and shortly afterwards special rights were offered to Huguenot descendants who might wish to return there. Very few of those who had crossed the Channel can have been tempted, for assimilation was complete. What had been French had become British.

Yesterday’s post covered the Huguenot influence on the Channel Islands, Jersey in particular. It also looked at General — or Marshal — Vauban’s statistics on the wealth, expertise and military training the Huguenots were taking from France.

Religious persecution can have a profound effect on the nation of origin — in this case, France — and the new host nation for refugees, the second most popular of which was England.

Dr Robin Gwynn — author, historian and retired professor — deplores our late 20th century loss of history, particularly that of the Huguenots. In 1985, he told the Christian Science Monitor of his astonishment that a 1978 volume covering the period between 1658 and 1714 has no mention of the French Protestants who fled to Britain, principally England.

Gwynn was referring to Crown and Court by J R Jones. Jones, by way of reply to the Monitor, said he thought the Huguenots were little more than a footnote.  Jones is not alone. A contemporary of his, Professor John Kenyon of St Andrew’s University in Scotland, is equally dismissive of this large wave of immigrants — approximately 50,000 people in a country with a population of a little over 5 million during Louis XIV’s reign. Afterward, the Huguenots continued to migrate to England. By the mid-18th century, 500,000 had arrived.

Gwynn says that the Huguenots’ influence on English society should not be forgotten:

They knew that in the 19th century. If you read [the English historian] Macaulay, he was well aware of the Huguenot input. In 1900, you couldn’t possibly have written a history of Stuart England without mentioning the Huguenots. But in the 1980s you can. 

The Monitor explains:

In England, Huguenots were spread across a range of classes, although they were mainly urban in origin. Their mark was left on painting, sculpture, acting, teaching, and medicine.

Moreover, the Huguenots seem to have forced on England a greater degree of religious tolerance …

Not to mention their fine goods manufacture: silk weaving, lace trims, furniture, jewellery, silversmithing and watchmaking.

The Monitor then cites two important details which prove that Vauban was right about the Huguenots’ departure weakening France militarily and economically:

Huguenot presence in the English Army became a significant factor in the eventual defeat of Louis XIV.

In finance, too, the Huguenots were prominent: They provided 10 percent of the initial capital for the Bank of England, and six of the original governors, including the chairman, were Huguenots.

Gwynn developed his interest in the French Protestants because his mother was the first official researcher for the Huguenot Society of London. She also wrote the standard book on the history of the Huguenots in Ireland.

Incidentally, Gwynn spoke at the 1985 tercentenary commemorations of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in Jersey, the subject of my previous post.

I have found his summaries of his research and his books to be not only informative but fascinating to read. The following information comes from his article for History Today called ‘England’s “First Refugees”‘. (The transcribed article has several glaring punctuation and spelling errors.)

As I wrote yesterday of countries which welcomed the Huguenots:

These nations, among others, were known to the French as pays du Refuge. In fact, the word refugié (refugee) is hardly a new one. It came about with the escape of the Huguenots from France and was first coined in 1681 (see p. 4 of the PDF, a talk by historian Robin Gwynn).

Gwynn tells us this was often shortened to rés.

Popularity of England — and London

England proved a popular destination, second only to the Netherlands. The Huguenots’ faith would be well received with freedom of practice unhindered.

Most who fled to England were highly skilled craftsmen or learning the trades, as a number of poorer Huguenots were among them. Others were in the main professions — e.g. law, medicine. A few Protestant noblemen also made a new home for themselves. Whatever the status, literacy was good to strong as was assimilation into society.

The English — then as now — were fond of French merchandise, particularly at the upper end of the scale. Therefore, Huguenots gravitated to London, found a French congregation, met its members and secured work through it. Whilst not all made a fortune, they were at least nearly guaranteed to make a living and support a family. A number of Huguenot charities were in existence which helped, too.

Huguenots coming from French seaports often preferred to settle along or near the southern and southwest coast from Kent to Bristol.

Further north, they were fewer. The markets were not as favourable as London’s, although Chester and Edinburgh both had small Huguenot settlements.

Reaction of the English

Then — as now — there was a natural suspicion of the French, based on longstanding history dating back to the Norman Conquest. Those in lesser positions of work also feared that the new arrivals would take their jobs.

As Gwynn says:

The appearance of so many people fleeing government action abroad had no previous parallels in English history … Not until the nineteenth century can any other swell of refugees be said to compare remotely with the Huguenots.

However, nearly everyone — from whatever social class they came from — understood that the Huguenots were being mercilessly persecuted in France by a Catholic king. Public opinion soon changed to a more empathetic and welcoming one.

Rapid assimilation

The first sign of Huguenot assimilation was in their surnames. Depending on the clerk who was processing paperwork upon their arrival, it happened sooner rather than later:

‘Lacklead’ has a Scottish, ‘Bursicott’ a West Country air; they are what Englishmen made of de la Clide and de Boursaquotte when they first encountered those Huguenot names.

That said, as in South Africa, a number of Huguenot surnames survive today:

names like Bosanquet, Courtauld, Dollond, Gambier, Garrick, Minet, Portal, Tizard. A few, such as de Gruchy, Le Fanu, Lefevre, Lefroy or Ouvry, still immediately strike one as of foreign origin.

Some Hugenot families anglicised their family names themselves from:

Andrieu, Boulanger, Barbier, de la Croix, Forestier, Reynard, Le Cerf, Mareschal, Le Moine, de la Neuvemaison, de la Pierre, Blanc and Dubois

to

Andrews, Baker, Barber, Cross, Forrester, Fox, Hart, Marshall, Monk, Newhouse, Peters, White, Wood.

One man who did so was the famous actor David Garrick’s grandfather — also named David. Wikipedia tells us (emphases mine):

Garrick’s grandfather, David Garric, was in Bordeaux in 1685 when the Edict of Nantes was abolished, revoking the rights of Protestants in France. David Garric fled to London and his son, Peter, who was an infant at the time, was later smuggled out by a nurse when he was deemed old enough to make the journey. David Garric became a British subject upon his arrival in Britain and anglicised the name to Garrick.[2]

Gwynn says the Huguenots settled in to English society relatively quickly with the following result:

The number of Huguenots who sought refuge in England was so large, in relation to a national population of perhaps five and a half million at the end of the seventeenth century, that assimilation and intermarriage mean that most English readers of this journal will have some Huguenot blood in their veins.

Allegiance to England

The Huguenots maintained their good social and religious reputation in England. In addition, their contribution to commerce and intellectual life won them friends among the English.

The Huguenots also felt an allegiance to their new host country. As I mentioned above, they fought with the English to defeat Louis XIV. They also opposed Bonnie Prince Charlie:

[W]hen the Young Pretender appeared in 1745, the Huguenots were quick to come forward with loyal addresses promising men for service against him.

Their loyalty never waned, even through successive generations.

Tomorrow’s post examines the life of Samuel Romilly, a descendant of Huguenots. London’s eponymous street in Soho is named after him.

My past two posts — here and here — looked at Huguenots settling in South Africa, thanks to the efforts of the Netherlands and the Dutch East India Company.

Other Huguenots found European countries more to their liking, among them England and the Channel Islands. These nations, among others, were known to the French as pays du Refuge. In fact, the word refugié (refugee) is hardly a new one. It came about with the escape of the Huguenots from France and was first coined in 1681 (see p. 4 of the PDF, a talk by historian Robin Gwynn).

This timeline describes the long persecution of French Protestants. Some were allowed to settle in England under Edward VI’s and Elizabeth I’s reigns in the 16th century. Elizabeth I also helped to finance the Huguenot effort in France, as did Germany (see item 9 of the timeline).

After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685, opinion among powerful Frenchmen was divided. Whilst many lauded Louis XIV’s decree, General Vauban sounded the alarm regarding the Huguenot flight four years later in 1689:

- 80,000 to 100,000 people had left;

- 30 million livres (‘pounds’, their currency at the time) went with them, in cash;

- France’s high-end craftsmanship and luxury goods industry — a lucrative source of exports — were ruined with their departure;

- 8,000 to 9,000 sailors had defected, ‘the best in the kingdom’;

- 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers along with 500 to 600 officers had deserted, ‘more warlike’ than those of the countries to which they had escaped — potentially putting France in grave danger in her ongoing conflicts, especially with England.

In England, suspicions grew over James II’s seeming support of Louis XIV. Noblemen, politicians and everyday people believed James II was trying to stamp out the Protestant faith. The establishment’s opposition to his reign led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the accession of William of Orange (Dutch) to the throne. My post explains (emphases mine):

In order to bring England back to the Catholic Church, James II increased his standing army to 40,000 men.  Innkeepers who refused to accommodate Army officers lost their licences.  He also used the newly developed post office as a means of spying on dissenters.  He also ensured that local government officials supported him and filled Parliament with men who were onside.

A number of Christians in England — mostly Protestants, but even a number of Catholics — opposed this illiberal approach.  So, too, did the prominent political parties at the time, the Whigs and the Tories.  Together, they managed, despite the lack of instant communication we know today, to build a network to oppose James II’s reforms.  This revolt, known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688, was less bloody than the subsequent French revolution of 1789 (in which revolt against the monarchy and the Church featured prominently).  Nonetheless, it was marked by intense and violent popular uprisings which culminated in an Anglo-Dutch military invasion which saw William of Orange become King of England …

The Glorious Revolution was short, ending the following year.   Yet, it paved the way for the Acts of Union in 1707, readying the country for the Industrial Revolution and the building of the British Empire.  England became a modern, liberal state by becoming a constitutional monarchy, which effectively did away with the notion of the divine right of kings.  Parliament created a Bill of Rights which, among other things, guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right of petition and abolition of cruel and unusual punishments.

During this time, the island of Jersey, close to the French mainland as are the other Channel Islands, was a popular first port of call and, for some, final destination for fleeing Huguenots.

Jersey still retains a French flavour and combines the best of France and British influence.

In 1985, the Société Jersiaise commemorated the 300th anniversary of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. To assemble the most history as possible of their Huguenot families, they called on a number of sources, including the Huguenot Society of London. They also invited guest speakers, including some from France, to talk about this period of history. As Marguerite Syrvet explains in her article (linked above):

Stories of evacuation, escape by sea, deportation, helped us to recreate the circumstances of those earlier migrations. Escape routes, safe houses, trusted guides, information by word of mouth or on scraps of paper led to La Rochelle or Granville, recognised ports of escape. 

She describes two stories of refugees. Louis Moquet, who died in 1789, related his to his grand-daughter Marie Chevalier. Since then, it has stayed in the family:

A native of Poitou, Moquet was forced to wander from place to place to avoid his enemies: ‘The persecutions in France against the French Protestants constrained him to fly for refuge to the island of Jersey. Having been married by a Protestant minister, he was in danger of being sent to the galleys for life. His wife was taken from him and placed in a convent, where she remained eighteen months. Whilst there she gave birth to a child who died soon after. One of the nuns, moved with compassion, promised to help her to escape, provided she would not discover it.

Mrs Moquet made this known to her husband in Jersey who went over to Granville. With the assistance of friends she escaped in the night and, having joined her husband, went over with him to Jersey. Louis prospered and was appointed ‘distributor of the Royal Bounty to Protestant refugees’.

The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland explains more about this Royal Bounty. They add that it can be useful for those tracing their Huguenot heritage. That said, they advise that people know in advance roughly where in England or the Channel Islands one’s ancestors lived.

Ironically, given the history above, James II instituted the Royal Bounty in 1686, the year after the Revocation of the Treaty of Nantes. The Royal Bounty continued through the reign of George III.

In 1804, Parliament ruled that the Bounty be paid to existing pensioners only. The last Huguenot pensioner died in 1876, as did the Bounty.

An English Committee managed the funds which they delegated to the French Committee made up of prestigious and well-respected Huguenots to distribute accordingly. An Ecclesiastical Committee was in charge of donating funds to poor Huguenot clergymen.

Distributions were made to the following categories of Protestant refugees: Noblesse or People of Quality, the Bourgeoisie or People of the Middling Sort and the Common People. Bounty records often are good with the first two groups but less so with the last. Some receipts of people signing for money have also been preserved. This is why the Bounty documentation can be helpful to genealogists.

Returning to Jersey by way of Marguerite Syvret’s article, she tells of another true Jersey story, related to Charles Dickens which he included in an 1853 edition of his journal, Household Words. It involves Magdalen Lefebvre whose great-granddaughter, in turn, related it to Dickens:

Farmer Lefebvre lived in Normandy on a small, self-sufficient estate producing honey, vegetables, poultry and livestock to feed his family; sheep, hemp and flax to provide wool, linen and fine thread to clothe them. On a rare visit to the market at Avranches to purchase a cow he learnt of the Revocation and its implications. His wife was an invalid unable to travel, but lest their infant daughter, Magdalen, be taken from them to a convent, they arranged for her to be sent to Jersey. Wrapped in a mattress half concealed in sackcloth and a load of straw, the child was taken by horse and cart to Granville and entrusted to the owner of a fishing smack with apples and pears for Jersey, where the orchard crops had failed.

With her went a trunk containing her unfinished trousseau begun at her birth by her mother and made with fine spun thread from home grown flax. Willing hands took her from Jersey to London to be brought up by maiden aunts.

The schoolchildren of Jersey took part in an essay-writing competition concerning the island’s Huguenot influence. One essay quoted the Victorian author and civic reformer, Samuel Smiles, a Scot who was raised as a Reformed Presbyterian. Although he discontinued religious practice as an adult, he blended Calvinist values into his works, the most famous of which is Self-Help. Of Jersey and the Huguenots, Smiles wrote:

Although the refugees for the most part regarded the Channel Islands as merely temporary places of refuge … a sufficient number remained to determine the Protestant character of the community and completely to transform the islands by their industry; since which time Jersey and Guernsey, from being among the most backward and miserable places on the face of the earth, have come to be recognised as among the most happy and prosperous.

They continue to be so today and prove to be delightful holiday destinations. Those who are able to live there permanently are blessed indeed.

More will follow tomorrow on the Huguenots in England.

Although cycling fans in Britain were disappointed that we had no chance of winning this year’s Tour de France, nonetheless we enjoyed three weeks of suspense.

Thankfully, the Tour took the decision a few years ago to make it more challenging, the way it was a century ago.

Outside of Vincenzo Nibali’s reign at the top, the rest of the overall classification turned out to be as unpredictable as the stages.

From the start, favourites dropped out because of injury. Crashes were frequent. Mark Cavendish collided with Simon Gerrans near the finish line of Stage 1 in Harrogate. Cavendish went on to hospital and an urgent operation a few days later. Gerrans hung in there until Stage 17.

The crashes happen anyway, but perhaps never involved as many team leaders and other stars as this year’s. Chris Froome, last year’s winner, was out on Stage 5, causing team Sky to rethink their strategy. Andy Schleck was out on Stage 4. Alberto Contador — another favourite — crashed on Stage 10. Andrew Talansky left on Stage 12. Rui Costa dropped out on Stage 16.

The weather was surprisingly sunny in Yorkshire and unusually rainy in France. Moist tarmac and slick paving stones created havoc, causing collisions and flat tyres. Even when the sun was shining, the mountain stages — several of which were unfamiliar to the riders — proved relentless with their many steep gradients.

That said, for those riders fortunate or savvy enough to persevere until the end, the feeling of accomplishment was palpable. The overall winner of the race, Vincenzo Nibali, announced in Paris on Sunday, July 27:

Those past few days, when I was asked which one was my best moment of the Tour, I anticipated that no feeling of happiness could be compared to what we feel on the podium at the Champs-Elysées. It’s even more beautiful than what I could imagine.

Alessandro De Marchi, winner of the Combativity Prize, was at the other end of the spectrum in some ways, yet, was delighted with the result:

I’m very happy and proud to be part of the protocol ceremony on the Champs-Elysées. It’s been difficult to ride the way I did during three weeks but I want to continue racing aggressively in the future …

We have much to look forward to next year with regard to the high quality of French riders. AG2R La Mondiale won the team prize with all nine of their riders present on the podium in the Champs Elysées.  Their Jean-Christophe Peraud came in second place and Romain Bardet sixth.

Peraud, who crashed but recovered in Paris — proving the final stage is more than ceremonial — said:

I had realised yesterday already with the tears, I was aware of the importance of my performance. I never do things simply, I added a little last-minute handicap. I had that idea that something would happen. I was used as a skittle, I was pushed aside by the whole peloton. According to Christophe Riblon, there was a bottle on the tarmac that cause a big wave and I was taken down. It added a little bit of stress. I needed a little bit of spice on the last day.

It was above all moving after the time trial, now I put things back in perspective and I could take advantage of the nice view of Paris …

Bardet sounded apologetic for coming in sixth, then predicted great things in future:

… it’s only my second Tour de France, I lack a little bit of experience at times. But 6th is early a great performance. There is really a big generation in France. With Thibaut [Pinot, see below], we’re going to battle it out in the years to come, but there is also a good international opposition. To ride that fast and that young at such level, it’s good for the future. Now we’re going to spend a good evening together with the team and the family. We achieved a great collective performance in the first place.

Thibaut Pinot from FDJ (Française des Jeux) won Best Young Rider and came third in the overall classification:

The objective was the top 10, we knew the white jersey would come along as well. It’s the way I am, I love to attack, I love to have fun in the climbs. That’s bike riding the way I see it …

Bernard Hinault was the last Frenchman to win the Tour … in 1985! Could 2015 be France’s year? I look forward to finding out.

In closing, this year marked Jens Vogt’s farewell Tour. Aged 43, he’s participated in 17 and will be sorely missed. He went out in style with a brief one-man attack on the Champs Elysées.

Also worth mentioning is this year’s lanterne rouge, Cheng Ji, China’s first participant in the Tour. Although he finished 164th and crashed in Paris, he provided useful pacing for his team, Giant Shimano, throughout. We wish him well in his recovery from his left elbow and knee trauma. It was a relief to find that he was able to finish the stage and avoid disqualification.

Roll on 2015 — vive le Tour!

Those who watch the Tour de France at home could be forgiven for not thinking very much of the podium ladies who present the stage awards and the various coloured jerseys on each day’s stage.

After all, we only see them at the end.

Yet, as Le Monde‘s blog En Danseuse — ‘standing on the pedals’ — explains, they have a full time job just as everyone else involved in this three-week endurance race does.

Henri Seckel interviewed the podium ladies who present Tour sponsor Antargaz’s daily award for the Most Aggressive Rider. This presentation isn’t usually shown on television, but it is for the rider who does his very best — despite physiological and environmental conditions — to finish a stage. However, he must put strategic and aggressive effort into his performance.

The ultimate winner of this accolade, officially known as the Combativity Award, is announced in Paris on the final day of racing — Sunday, July 27, 2014. One lucky losing rider will be in pocket:

Prize money: € 20,000 for the overall winner (€ 58,000 in total).

By contrast, the overall Yellow Jersey winner, who, this year, will be Vincenzo Nibali, will win over €1m.

More on Nibali in a minute.

The Combativity Award

First, to Henri Seckel’s interview with the ladies, Priscilla and Ophélie, who present the Antargaz award. The title of the blog post states that the Combativity Award is not a rubbish prize.

Ophélie explains that it goes to someone who has:

the courage, the pluck, the genius that gives the impression that he could be a stage winner or the best sprinter or the best climber. As there are riders who would like to win this award, it has value.

Becoming a podium lady

Now on to how the ladies got started with the Tour.

Ophélie says that she initially applied to be a driver:

I didn’t realise you had to have such a lot of experience. They said, ‘You won’t be able to do that, but we have something else for you.’

Priscilla had worked on the publicity caravan:

and if you really love the Tour, you want to know everything about it. But I told myself I probably didn’t have the right profile [for the podium].

When asked what the desired profile is, Priscilla said there wasn’t really any of which to speak. Ophélie said:

You have to be tall, at least. Then, not too ugly.

Seckel asked them if they feared being seen as airheads. Both said they were kept quite busy throughout the day, it’s just that most people don’t see them. Ophélie explained:

In the morning, we help prepare the stage departure, we’re running around, we’re welcoming Antargaz’s guests. Then we go to the middle of the stage where there are more guests; we welcome everyone, distribute gifts, then it’s on to the finish. The podium is only two minutes in our day. 

Easygoing and friendly

Seckel then fielded questions about women’s temperaments. As to whether there were ‘wars’ between hostesses from different sponsors, both women said that all the ladies were easygoing. Priscilla added:

The recruitment criterion is for easygoing people. We’re not tearing each other’s hair out.

But, Seckel asked, what about the women who present the yellow jersey? Was there any envy on the part of those who weren’t selected for that?  Ophélie said that no one makes a big deal out of it:

Of course … it’s highly prestigious. But the day-to-day job is still the same.

When asked how they were treated by spectators or guests, Priscilla said that the ladies who work only in the caravan suffer any number of verbal insults, but the podium ladies are treated with great respect. The riders, she makes clear, are nice to everyone.

Post-Tour blues

Such is the experience of the podium lady that, post-Tour, it’s a bit of a wrench getting readjusted to normal life. Ophélie explained:

It’s such a huge event — you’re in a bubble, in a little cocoon. The first time, they tell you: ‘You’ll see. By the end, you’ll be in tears.’ Because you’re totally taken care of, lodged, fed, made beautiful, and then, all of a sudden, that’s it. You’re on the way home, on the train, all alone, no one recognises you because you aren’t carrying anything branded Antargaz, no one smiles, no one says hello.

Priscilla felt the same:

The first year, I said, ‘Nah, I won’t cry, I’ve only known you for three weeks.’ And, frankly, I never cried harder in all my life. The Tour family is not a myth. We see each other afterward, go on holiday together — it’s really impressive.

Podium choreography

I suspect that people who watch a stage all the way to the end for the podium presentations are those who insist on watching all the credits at the end of a film. I am one of those people.

Those of us who do watch the podium presentations know how well synchronised they are. Nothing is out of place. Everything goes like clockwork.

Priscilla and Ophélie said that everything is rehearsed again and again, down to the last detail. It’s not unusual for the podia to be marked for positioning one’s feet and one’s distance from the rider.

They both said that even the slightest faux pas must be avoided, including touching one’s hair. Hence the need for lots of hairspray pre-podium.

Watch the 2013 final awards in Paris (at 1:00 in) to see how the women stand, how they applaud in a ladylike way and how expertly they do this aspect of their job, including the accomplished airkisses they give the riders:

Yet, one Yellow Jersey podium lady bucked the trend this year. In Sheffield, at the end of Stage 2, Vincenzo Nibali won the yellow jersey for the first time in his career. He’s gone on to win it every day since.

Huffington Post has a seconds-long replay in slow motion. The brunette with the bouffant made it look as if she were giving him a kiss but actually only grabbed his neck, pulling him towards her, leaving him covering for the incident by adjusting his collar.

You can see more in a news report via YouTube:

 

No one knows the dynamics behind her refusal to kiss him. Please note that Nibali did not say anything publicly afterward, certainly not as HuffPo’s title might imply. That particular remark came from someone online.

Although not asked about this incident, Le Monde‘s Seckel did want to know about the riders’ hygiene post-race. Ophélie told Le Monde that they are very clean by the time they reach the podium:

At the finishing line, they get into a little camping car where they have a nice wash, change their jersey and so on, so that when they arrive on the podium they’re spick and span.

I shall miss these insights — as well as the Tour — come next week. They’ve become part of my life, too.

Whilst many Western countries have long outlawed the practice of home burial, here in the UK it is still legal.

Television presenter Kirsty Allsop recently told the Independent how she and other family members buried her late mother in her parents’ back garden.

Home burial is illegal in many countries because amateurish digging and interring can contaminate the water table or interfere with utility cables or pipes.

In the UK families seeking to bury a loved one at home cannot act independently but must first contact the Environment Agency for formal permission, which consists of a permit and burial record as well as a procedure to follow for interment. The burial site cannot be close to a ditch or water source.

Furthermore, whereas landed gentry have the space to inter many deceased relatives, the average British homeowner will not be able to bury many, probably only one or two.

Whilst the Natural Death Centre fully support home funerals and burials, they also have a word of advice when it comes time to sell the property. The organisation’s Rosie Inman-Cook writes:

… if a vendor fails to declare the presence of a body or two, then the new home owner would have good justification to successfully obtain permission to exhume, maybe even suing the vendor for the cost of that gruesome process.  However, these properties do sell.  I often wonder, if we all called in the archaeologists, how many of us would discover we have Saxon or Roman remains under our homes? Would that then bother us?

One of the commenters on Kirsty Allsop’s article remembered his family funerals being handled largely at home, except for interment at the local cemetery, until 1950.

He wrote of a British experience, but it was also widespread in the United States.

My grandparents and their friends were accustomed to laying out the deceased at home for a day or two and receiving visitors during that time. A rota of family were on hand from morning until late evening to greet those wishing to pay their last respects.

A more recent scene of this practice is in the 1971 film Get Carter — the original, starring Michael Caine — which takes place in Newcastle. Early in the film, Jack (Caine) sees his brother’s body for the last time in his house before the undertakers arrive to put the lid on the coffin and remove it for burial.

Today, of course, most of us are accustomed to no viewing at all (Britain) or a period of open-casket visitation at a funeral home (the US). Whatever the custom, the undertaker generally takes care of everything.

It is surprising — even with cremation — how expensive funerals can be here and elsewhere. I know of a recent one in the US where cremation and related costs amounted to $3,500 versus $13,000 for body burial at a pre-purchased cemetery plot two hours away. (The plot had been purchased 60 years beforehand, so does not figure in the costs cited here.)

Therefore, it is no wonder that those who can are increasingly opting for home burial. It won’t be for everyone — either practically or emotionally — but many in Britain are glad they have the freedom to go ahead with a plan that makes them feel closer to their loved one. As the Natural Death Centre says, it can also help with the grieving and healing process.

July 15 is St Swithun’s Day in England.

Although this great bishop died on July 2, 862 — the date of death normally determines the feast day — his burial place was changed a century later on July 15, after he was canonised.

It is this translation — change, movement — of burial place which is behind the legendary saying which predicts 40 further days of whatever weather occurred on July 15.

Britannia Biographies tells us that Swithun was one of the most learned men of his time. He spent his ministry in Winchester, first at the monastery attached to the cathedral, later becoming the prior there, then as bishop of the diocese.

However, Swithun was also well known for the churches he had built in areas where there had been none and for repairing existing churches which had become damaged.

Swithun also had a bridge built in the eastern part of Winchester. He used to sit nearby in an effort to encourage the workmen there. One day, malicious workmen on the site broke a basket of eggs belonging to an elderly woman. Swithun is said to have miraculously restored the eggs.

Swithun also mixed in royal circles, acting as tutor for King Aethelwulf of Wessex as well as his son, who later became King Alfred. Aethelwulf had to fight off invading Danes; despite this, he was known for his wise rule. He was also very religious and intent on spreading the Christian faith throughout Wessex. His youngest son, Alfred, was able to repel further Danish invasions by negotiating the Danelaw in 886, which partitioned England and gave Danes control over the eastern regions of Anglia and parts of Mercia. Alfred is also known as the Father of the English Navy. He codified law and translated Latin books into Anglo-Saxon. His rule was such that he is known as Albert the Great, and visitors to Winchester can see his statue there.

Therefore, evidence of Swithun’s influence can be seen through these kings’ lives. In the 10th century, Winchester Cathedral — previously dedicated to Sts Peter and Paul — was rededicated to their beloved, holy bishop.

Incidentally, Vic the Vicar! has the readings for Swithun’s feast day.

As for the weather legend, prior to his death, Bishop Swithun left instructions that he be buried in the cathedral grounds:

where ‘passers by might tread on his grave and the sweet rain from heaven might wet his grave’.

After his canonisation 100 years later, a golden shrine to Swithun’s memory was erected in Winchester Cathedral and his remains were translated — moved, transferred — there in 971. It had already been raining too frequently for the cathedral workers to transfer his remains near July 2, so this was done on July 15.

The ensuing legendary 40 days of rain caused the people of Winchester at the time to assume that Swithun’s spirit was most unhappy at being transferred from a humble resting place outdoors to a gilded one inside the cathedral.

Although this became a local legend initially, it spread throughout England and continues to be well known today. The ancient rhyme is as follows:

St. Swithun’s day, if thou dost rain,
For forty days it will remain;
St. Swithun’s day, if thou be fair,
For forty days ’twill rain na mair.

Britain’s Met Office told the Daily Mirror on St Swithun’s Day 2014 that there is no truth to this prediction:

“While the story is compelling, it’s not entirely backed up by historical records and, similarly, when it comes to the weather folklore it’s not backed up by weather statistics.

“Numerous studies have been carried out on past weather observations and none of them have proved the legend true. In fact, since the start of records in 1861, there have neither been 40 dry or 40 wet days following the corresponding weather on St Swithin’s Day.”

However, note that their data deal only with 1861 to the present. Who knows what happened before then?

In fact, several European countries have a similar saying relating to their own saints. In France, it is St Gervais Day (July 19). In Germany, Seven Sleepers Day (July 7), commemorating a group of young martyrs from 3rd century Ephesus, is said to determine the weather for the next seven weeks.

In what used to be Flanders — today’s northern Belgium — the month of July was known as Wedermaend, which means ‘month of storms’.

It would seem, therefore, that there is some truth to these sayings and legends.

WeatherOnline takes a different line to the Met Office. Perhaps the Met should read their informative article on the jet stream and European summer weather. Excerpts follow (emphases in the original, purple highlight mine):

Whoever told the story about the St. Swithun’s day saying was obviously well aware that summer weather patterns establishing by the beginning to the middle of July tend to be persistent throughout the coming few weeks. In fact this is statistically true in 7 to 8 out of 10 years.

The meteorological interpretation is quite straightforward. The position of the frontal zone around the end of June to early July, indicated by the position of the jet stream, determines the general weather patterns (hot, cold, dry, wet) for the rest of the summer. Like a little stream in its bed, the frontal zone tends to ‘dig in’ shortly after the summer solstice.

Try and prepare your own summer forecast with our expert maps. The 500mbar maps usually give a good idea about the position of the frontal zone. Have a look at them over the next two weeks and produce a DIY summer forecast valid until mid-August with a confidence of 70 to 80%.

No wonder the St. Swithun’s day rule is also know in other western European countries.

I shall try forecasting and report back at the end of August! Here’s WeatherOnline‘s map from July 16, 2014:

Height/Temp. 500 hPa GFS We 16.07.2014 12 GMT

A post I wrote for Orphans of Liberty today looks at the effect women bishops will have on the popularity and membership of the Church of England (CofE).

What follows is a summary of that post.

First, there is the matter of how the victory was engineered. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that he’d received pressure from the government for the Synod to approve women bishops. Welby was ready to dissolve the Synod and reconvene it for another vote on the matter had it been defeated on July 14, 2014. In other words, keep voting until you get the ‘right’ result.

Second, no scriptural arguments were used, or at least these were not made public. Persuasion revolved around cultural norms and bringing the CofE into line with the 21st century.

Third, a number of Synod members who had voted against women bishops in 2012 changed their minds this year because they feared being deselected from the next Synod or were tired of the grief they received from people in their diocese.

It is clear that the CofE is increasingly moving away from scriptural tenets. The co-founder of Orphans of Liberty — and one of my readers — James Higham has written an excellent essay exploring why and how England’s established (state) church is failing.

Women bishops won’t fix a thing. (Women priests didn’t.) Nor will allowing single-sex church wedding ceremonies, which may well be a topic at the next Synod. Nor will support of euthanasia.

The CofE has become merely another social club which goes along with popular culture — the world — at every turn.

Who wants to get out of bed on a Sunday when one can get the same talking points from the media?

As I said at Orphans of Liberty, a small number of people will continue to go to other denominations or to independent churches which are faithful to the Bible.

Sadly, many more will choose to leave the Church altogether.

The CofE’s USP is its frequent Communion services. However, it is difficult to receive the Sacrament from a priest who embraces the world so fully, as many of our clergy do.

Yet, even there, Article XXVI of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion states:

… Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered unto them, which be effectual because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

That said, the Anglican Church is expected to depose such clergy. Article XXVI concludes:

Nevertheless it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church that inquiry be made of evil ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty by just judgement, be deposed.

It should come as no surprise that the CofE considers the Thirty-nine Articles as ancient history to be disregarded.

Much the same way they consider Holy Scripture: old-fashioned and out-of-date.

After two days in Yorkshire ‘up hill, down dale’, Stage 3 of the Tour de France’s 2014 concluded in London, along the Mall near Buckingham Palace.

The Guardian carried glowing reviews — along with a selection of photos — of Stage 3 which began in the heart of Cambridge and continued through picturesque villages in Essex prior to hitting the nation’s capital.

The paper’s Sean Ingle reported:

On the final day of the English Grand Départ, crowds were similar in volume to those in Yorkshire, against a contrasting backdrop, with Cambridge’s King’s Parade first up, then cornfields, village greens and half-timbered houses giving way eventually to ranks of suburban houses, the Olympic velodrome and the ArcelorMittal Orbit before the Docklands light railway and the Thames appeared, after which the stage became a high-speed tour of London’s most iconic monuments: Tower Bridge, the Embankment, Big Ben.

In another article, he wrote:

Someone having their lunch in Piccadilly Circus a few hundred metres from the Mall, the finish of Monday’s third stage, wouldn’t have necessarily known that the world’s biggest bike race was about to steamroller through the nation’s capital. It was just one attraction among many. But as it neared its conclusion, and office doors opened and crash barriers swelled with the curious and the hard core, there was a strong sense of deja vu. London, like Yorkshire, had been smitten. Some even suggested the crowds were bigger than for the road races at the 2012 Olympics.

And it wasn’t just London. Saffron Walden swelled. Chelmsford clogged up. There were thousands in Epping Forest. And even along the long stretches of road between conurbations, where there was little but wheat or field or fauna, there were often lone cheerleaders urging the riders on. Union jacks were everywhere. It was like the Proms had started two weeks early – except the orchestra was thousands of times larger, and they were using klaxons and hands as their instruments.

Essex had far fewer of what I call field ornamentation — huge, decorative displays in farmers’ fields. Yet, as Ingle says, the spectators’ enthusiasm was excellent, particularly considering that it was a Monday.

However, after a sunny weekend in Yorkshire, the riders experienced a shower in central London which came right before the finish line. This made the final kilometre or two dangerous for them, especially as they had to negotiate quite a bit of ‘road furniture’ (e.g. bus lane dividers).

Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) won the stage with Peter Sagan (Cannondale) finishing second. Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali wore the yellow jersey for the second day running.

London’s Evening Standard has a collection of photos of the day’s cycling and all the crowds.

The final verdict from the head of the Tour, Christian Prudhomme, was:

amazing, unforgettable, and the grandest Grand Départ ever.

He is quite certain the Tour will return to Britain in future — it’s more a matter of when:

“I am very happy people want us to be back but I don’t know exactly when,” he said. “We have many requests to host the Tour: from Holland, Belgium, Italy and Spain.

“What I do know is that the welcome was exceptional. London in 2007 was very special but these three days were unforgettable. I’ve had so many messages saying how beautiful it looked, how many people there were on the roadsides. It might seem abnormal to some French people to bring the Tour to England. I can say to them: just watch!”

ITV4’s commentators said that the Dutch are closely studying these three grand days out in England in preparation for 2015’s Grand Départ in Utrecht. We wish them much success and hope it goes as well as ours did.

Credit must also go to France2 and France3 for making even the most modest village or unassuming highway look beautiful and inviting. These two channels supply the race footage we see on television. Their cameramen, especially those filming from a helicopter for the aerial shots, have a real eye for composition and detail. Coverage wouldn’t be the same without them. Chapeau — or ‘hats off’ to them!

As yesterday’s post stated, this year’s Tour de France Grand Départ was such a success that a high profile Tour of Yorkshire could take place as early as May 2015.

We owe these two grand days out (as Wallace might say to Gromit) to Gary Verity, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. The yellow ‘Y’ seen frequently during the Tour’s coverage of the first two stages is his organisation’s symbol.

The Guardian tells us that Verity had an early career in the City — London’s financial district — before starting a new life as a sheep farmer in Coverdale. He and his late wife Helen moved to Yorkshire when she was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

After Helen’s death, Verity threw himself into promoting Yorkshire as a tourist destination and got the Tour de France idea one morning whilst he was shaving. His fellow Yorkshiremen thought the idea was daft; after all, they reasoned, big events belong to rival Manchester, not Leeds, Harrogate, York or Sheffield.

The Guardian describes how events unfolded (emphases mine):

In the runup to the 2012 London Olympics, Verity sat on the nations and regions group and argued that Yorkshire needed its answer to Manchester’s 2002 Commonwealth Games …

He had borrowed a helicopter from a friend to fly in the French organisers of the Tour, including race director Christian Prudhomme. After a glass of lager and Yorkshire-pudding canapes, two stretch limos took the party on a tour of Middleham Castle, home of Richard III, Swinton Park and Harewood House. Dinner was provided by a Michelin-starred local chef and among the guests of honour was [Brian] Robinson, the first British winner of a Tour de France stage, back in 1958.

In the light of the Tour’s traditional links with the French equivalent of the National Farmers Union, Verity carefully stressed the agricultural angle, but the delegation’s visit ended with an urban coup de théâtre. On a walk through Leeds, the big television screen in Millennium Square switched from showing BBC News to a promotional film for Yorkshire’s bid, ending with a personal plea from cyclist Mark Cavendish.

“Christian Prudhomme’s jaw hit the ground at that point, and he later told me that was when he knew we could deliver the Grand Départ,” Verity has recalled. On the way to the Eurostar, Prudhomme confirmed that he was impressed. “Yorkshire,” he announced, “is very sexy.”

England has hosted Grand Départs before, most recently in London and Kent in 2007, with upwards of 1m spectators lining the routes each day. However, they are few and far between. Prior to 2007, these events took place in 1994 and 1974.

The British government favoured Edinburgh as a host city. After Bradley Wiggins won the 2012 Tour and won a gold medal at the London Olympics, Yorkshire ramped up the lobbying. By December that year, Verity had signed a contract with Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation and the government allocated £10m to Yorkshire, including £1.75m from UK Sport.

Verity told The Guardian that he even found Amaury Sport Organisation’s fee ‘incredible value for money’.

The impossible is often possible: where there’s a will, there’s a way! A knighthood for this man, who clearly deserves it.

ITV4 commentators told their viewers that schools, businesses and private individuals banded together to make July 5 and 6, 2014, a success. And so they were!

An estimated 4m people lined the routes from Leeds to Harrogate and York to Sheffield. To those of us watching the coverage, however, it looked like most of Yorkshire showed up. The roads were not only lined with people but also resonated with a wall of noise — everywhere — from the cities to the Côte de Buttertubs and Côte de Blubberhouses. More than one person remarked that English names sound so much nicer in French!

Stage 1 began in Leeds with a ceremonial start (départ fictif), riding through the city for the 280,000 spectators there. The official start took place at Harewood (pron. ‘Harwood’) House where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry greeted the riders and everyone enjoyed the magnificent flypast by the Red Arrows. A brass band played the French and British national anthems, the Duchess of Cambridge cut the tape at the starting line — and the riders were off.

The climbs on both stages pleased the riders whose physiques are suited for such challenges. The weather co-operated in making Yorkshire’s welcome a special one. The density of people and narrowness of the roads added to the excitement which sometimes turned tense as riders made their way up hill and down dale.

Mark Cavendish had a Stage 1 win in mind, as his mother grew up in Harrogate. She was in the VIP stands there, near Prime Minister David Cameron. Unfortunately, just before the finish line, Cavendish tried to squeeze in front of Simon Gerrans in a ‘gap that wasn’t there’ and both of them hit the ground. Marcel Kittel went on to win the stage as Cavendish was taken to hospital. Gerrans is still in the Tour. Cavendish underwent surgery on his shoulder on Wednesday, July 9, and will probably need six weeks of recuperation.

Stage 2 began in the heart of York and went on to include nine climbs in five counties, including a small part of Greater Manchester. Once again, the scenery was beautiful everywhere and the spectators wildly enthusiastic. Those of us fancying the ambitions of the three remaining English riders hoped Chris Froome, last year’s Tour victor, would win the stage which concluded in Sheffield, but that privilege went to Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali.

For those who have not seen the Tour de France before, watching an afternoon of televised coverage is better than an hour of highlights. The Tour is about much more than 192 men cycling; it’s also about the terrain, the people and the festive atmosphere. Yorkshire had it in spades.

French journalist François Thomazeau filed an article for The Guardian after the first two Tour stages. He concluded:

In 2007, the passion for cycling was already spreading, but nobody would have believed that two local riders could take the yellow jersey to Paris within six years …

Cycling is now a household sport and Britons know almost as much about the Tour as we do. Perhaps even a little more. At least they know how to win it, something we have not been able to do for 30 years.

It seemed as though the whole of Yorkshire had left their homes to form a guard of honour to the peleton. Entire villages had used their best French to write banners cheering “Le Tour”, while union jacks and tricolores were flying proudly side by side in the light breeze.

Will cycling really be coming home on Tuesday when the Tour heads back to France? I am not so sure any more.

Christian Prudhomme, the Tour’s director, said the first two stages had been:

very special. [Five-times tour winner] Bernard Hinault said to me it is the first time in 40 years on a bike that he has seen crowds like we saw this weekend.

What you did was good for Yorkshire, for sure, but what you did was also good for the Tour. When you said you would deliver the grandest Grand Départ it was the truth. You have raised the bar for all future hosts of the Tour de France.

Let’s hope this brings many more tourists to Yorkshire and future high profile cycling events.

Tomorrow’s post looks at Stage 3 from Cambridge to London.

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